Chick who? Chuck who? The names of Corea and Mangione mean nothing to most of the 100-odd jazz record collectors holding their 12th annual convention in Alexandria. They are "that new stuff" or "oh, yeah, I think my daughter listens to that."
If there is a jazz renaissance going on (a point still hotly disputed among fans of living jazz), it is a matter of indifference to all but a handful of the International Association of Jazz Record Collectors who wind up their meeting tonight at the Holiday Inn on Eisenhower Avenue with a screen banquet of old jazz movies.
"Some of the guys here think that no real jazz has been played since 1929," said one convention-goer.
He is a member of the associations's avant garde, called "be boppers" by some of the traditionalists, who believe that no real jazz has been played since the late '40s.
The heart of activities is a large room full of tables where members' records are bought or exchanged. Cardboard boxes full of old 78-rpm discs are browed intensely and with an expert eye. Occasionally, there is a cry of triumph as someone stumbles on a treasure he has been seeking for years. But usually such expressions are muffled -- too much enthusiasm may attract a competitive bidder and raise the price.
"I've heard of people paying $150 for a single 78 rpm record," muses IAJRC president Ed Steane. "The cost of 78s is going out of sight. The most I've paid is $70 for a mint copy of a 1926 Victor record -- the Dixieland Jug Blowers. It was in mint condition, in its original cover and never played. It hasn't been played yet, in fact."
"One man's jazz is another man's noise," observed collector Martin Kite. "I like hotel society bands. A lot of the other guys don't talk to me."
"We have personality collectors," he explained. "people who specialize in someone like Al Jolson. Some of us specialize in blues singers or trumpeters, and some try to collect every record issued 50 years ago or some obscure label."
The members of the IAJRC drifted together in the late 1960s because they were doing similar research or enjoyed similar sounds and subscribed to the same magazine.A dozen years later, the organization has grown to about 1,000 members. President Steane hopes it won't get much larger because his job would be "too much work."
The common interest is trading information and records. The association publishes a quarterly magazine devoted mainly to record reviews and scholarly articles on jazz discography, and has also issued more than 30 LP records of old material available to members only at $4 apiece.
For many members, it is a nostalgia trip, Steane says. "For most of us, interest in jazz stops at about the bebop era," about the time when the speed of phonograph records was slowed down from 78 to 33 revolutions per minute.
At the convention, in addition to talk and trade, live jazz groups alternate with records -- on special equipment that can get remarkable sound out of old 78 rpm discs. One entrepreneur sells glossy prints of Benny Goodman, Louis Armstrong and other idols of bygone years.
"The real jazz collector is interested in the music, not just collecting those pieces of shellac." says Steane. Part of the reason may be that "those pieces of shellac," are not as easy to find as they used to be.
"The days of junk shopping are over," Steane reflects, remembering a time when discarded treasures could be found for small change. "The material has all been picked over, and the junk shop owners now know what they're handling.
"There are still some people who go through the South and knock on doors and ask "Do you have any old records in your attic," and a while back they found the complete stock of an old record store in storage in Chicago -- a lot of RCA Bluebirds in mint condition. But it doesn't happen as much as it did in the '40s and '50s."
The place to look for buried treasure now, Steane says, is in the vaults of record companies, which generally don't have much idea what kind of old, unissued material they may own. Other fertile sources are the "air check" recordings at old radio broadcasts. One label (appropriately named Aircheck) issues nothing else. Its stars include Bing Crosby, Jack Teagarden and Art Tatum as well as such nearly forgotten names as Russ Columbo and "Ukelele Ike" Edwards.
"I guess just about all of us play LPS by now, though some of us don't play stereo." says Bosy White, membership secretary of the IAJRC and proprietor of a small company called Shoestring Records.
White is retired from the Army, living on his pension and the meager profits of Shoestring, and he recalls that he taped and sold his vast collection of 78s when he decided on a military career. "You move all those old records around from one assignment to the next, and after a while you wind up with boxes full of broken pieces," he says.
"I catalogue it by what we call the Australian system," he says. "That means, if I can't find it, I don't have it."
One collector with more than 6,000 old shellac records is Warren Plath of Chicago, who solemnly vows that "I'm never going to move again." His friend Tom Linnell describes the experience of helping him move:
"There were only three of us that he felt he could trust for the job -- including himself -- and we had to carry all these heavy, wooden boxes down three flights of stairs and haul them over to his new condominium. Then we had to stack them up in order -- they covered a whole wall, and if a box was out of order, he just wouldn't be able to track down the records."
Linnell, whose jazz interest extends from the early '30s to the late '40s, isn't quite sure what is happening in the field now and likes to talk about the problems of old recordings. "You know, in the early days, you couldn't use a bass drum in a recording -- the vibrations would knock the needle right out of the wax. They used to kick a suitcase instead for the bass drum sound."
Linnell ran into the generation gap in jazz recently when he went to the post office to pick up a package. "The girl behind the counter told me, 'That looks like records,' and I told her, yes, they were jazz records.
"Oh, I'm a jazz fan," she said, and she mentioned three or four performers I didn't recognize. 'No,' I told her, 'these records are Louis Armstrong,' and you know what she answered: